Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve

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Upscale Resort at Turneffe Atoll, Belize

Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve is a protected area off the coast of central Belize that is popular for diving, snorkeling and recreational fishing.

Established in 2012, it is the largest marine reserve in Belize, covering an area of approximately 131,690 hectares (325,412 acres), which includes Turneffe Atoll and the surrounding open sea.

Visiting Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve

Map of Belize's three atolls

Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve is located 20 miles (32 km) off the coast of Belize City and it is accessible by boat, plane and helicopter. By boat, it takes approximately 1.5 hours to get there and flying there takes about 20 minutes.

Most people visit Turneffe for recreational activities such as diving, snorkeling and sport fishing. The area has over 60 well-known dive sites and its back-reef flats, creeks, channels and seagrasses offer world-class sport fishing for bonefish, permit, tarpon and several other species. In fact, the area is recognized as one of the world’s best fishing destinations for bonefish and permit.

Day trips to Turneffe from San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Placencia, and Hopkins are popular but many people choose to stay overnight. Whilst there are no settlements on any of the cayes that make up Turneffe Atoll, there are several high-end resorts (e.g. Belize Dive Haven) and educational/ research facilities.

Turneffe Atoll is important to Belize’s conservation efforts since it includes an assemblage of regionally important ecosystems of remarkable biodiversity and beauty, as well as of great scientific value. For example, the marine reserve encompasses three spawning aggregation sites and Belize’s primary American Saltwater Crocodile nesting site.

The area is also the habitat of many species of global conservation concern, among them the critically endangered hawksbill turtle and goliath grouper, and the endangered green and loggerhead turtles. Additionally, it is the habitat for the threatened white spotted toadfish, and pelagic and migratory species such as marlin, sailfish, wahoo, kingfish, tuna (bonito and (yellowfin), mackerel, jack (amber, horse-eye, crevalle), and shark.